Mahua Moitra, Revisited
The TMC MP's public statements are consistent and unafraid
She's the new kid on the block. A parliamentarian who takes her job seriously. She does her homework and marries her facts to passionate argument, without hesitation or trepidation. That she is not one to be cowed down was apparent after her maiden speech in the Lok Sabha, where she took on the treasury benches in the House, and managed the media and the trolls outside with admirable aplomb.
Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra in her second speech in Parliament on the UAPA Amendment Bill once again attracted the ire of the treasury benches, but also their interest. She began by observing that Home Minister Amit Shah was not present in the House but he came in shortly after. And could be seen smiling --a trifle patronisingly-- and asking others what she had said earlier. It is clear that she is taken seriously in the House, as she remains undaunted by the sniggers and the feeble attempts at derision by some.
Moitra stands out in the House for two basic reasons. One, she speaks with facts and a cohesive argument. And two, does not hesitate to call a spade a spade. She has worked on her speeches, makes her points without looking over her shoulder, and demands respect from all Members of Parliament even as she speaks without acrimony and anger.
Moitra in her two speeches and her statements and interviews outside is clearly committed to the Constitution and a democratic, secular idea of India. She says this over and over again, with the right of dissent clearly fundamental to her beliefs. In her second speech a day ago in Parliament she spoke of the rights of the opposition, and of her own right as MP to speak out, even as she questioned the growing tendency to dub everyone with opposing views as anti-national. "One runs a risk of being branded as anti-national if you oppose the government. Every time the opposition disagrees with national security, we are called anti-national by the propaganda machinery and the troll army of the government," she said.
This is not rocket science. It is a basic argument that stands out only because views such as hers, spoken with passion, are simply not heard from the opposition benches these days. As Moitra said the features of the UAPA Amendment Bill are anti-people and anti-Constitution and make for a very dangerous Act of Parliament. She said the very idea of declaring an individual a terrorist without due process goes against the principle of natural justice.
Muzzling dissent is a theme that Moitra has made central to her public statements as MP. “Fear is the greatest enemy of democracy” she said in an interview quoting former US President Barack Obama, saying that fear mongering of this sort was being managed “very successfully” by the BJP and this had people reacting in all kinds of ways. And she is a strong voice for Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress, making it clear that the party was not partisan, that controversies were being “stoked by the BJP”, and that despite differences with the CPM and the Congress they had asked for cooperation as there “is no bigger cause than India.”
And then again she asserted in response to questions that: “I am a Hindu, I have never in my life felt it necessary to tattoo that we are Hindus and Brahmins on our foreheads, to make people fearful of us, this kind of regressive jingoism is not for us, sooner or later Hindus will wake up to this.” She does not hesitate to take on the mass media either, being amongst the very few to speak (in an interview to Outlook) of the richest Indian who controls five media houses that make up 70-80 per cent of the media, illustrating the control over the media today.
Despite the trolls that had her name trending on Twitter, the abuse and the attack, this woman MP is not deterred. And continues her crusade in Parliament, speeches, television appearances and articles in the media.